Title: All’s Fair in Love and Advertising
Author: Lenore Black
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Romantic Comedy
Length: Novella (ebook)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie
The life of a creative genius isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, not when said genius is Max Tomlin, hotshot creative director of his own New York ad agency and slightly neurotic headcase. Still reeling after a painful divorce, he’s been taking a walk on the gay side, but that hasn’t gone much better. At least his agency is in the running for a new account—even if the prospective client is from rural, backward Montana! Max’s big-city prejudices go by the wayside when he meets Joe Bennett, aviation innovator and self-made businessman. Joe is smart, passionate, good-looking in a Marlboro Man way, and Max is hopelessly smitten. But business comes first, and Max can’t afford any distractions, not when he has an account to win and Joe’s legacy to protect. It’s going to take all of Max’s quick thinking, fast talking and sheer determination to win the account, save Joe’s company—and keep their budding relationship from becoming a casualty of corporate warfare.
Max Tomlin is an advertising genius and creative entrepreneur who is the head of New York’s largest and most successful ad agency. He has the world in the palm of his hand—or so he believes. The reality is that his life is slightly out of control—the story opens with hungover Max discovering his latest “boy-toy” has ditched him, his ex-wife is marrying a man he can’t stand and they are positioning themselves to be Max’s fiercest competitors, and—for reasons that Max cannot fathom, he cannot hold on to an administrative assistant. On top of all that, he is still reconciling himself to his “new” life as a gay man as he has only recently (10 months) come out to himself, friends, and co-workers.
The first pages of the book detail a typical day in Max’s life—frantic and filled with a little bit of everything, including a dinner meeting with a potential new client, Joe Bennett. When Max hears Bennett is from Montana, he is sure he will detest him, believing Joe to be everything that New York Max is not. So imagine his surprise when he finds himself making a pass at Joe on the sidewalk and his kiss is returned with the wry comment, “Most people don’t guess I am bisexual.”
Max is unwilling but can’t help himself from falling for Joe and Joe feels the same way. Of course, their budding romance is complicated by their potential business relationship, a looming hostile takeover, and the ever-present threat of competition from Max’s ex. As written, the story was a satisfying blend of romance between the two main characters as well as the corporate shenanigans that comprised the plot.
The story is fun, fast, and amusing, with several laugh-out-loud moments. Joe is a dreamboat and I was falling for him just about as fast as Max was. The story is told from Max’s third-person POV so much of Joe’s personality remains a mystery—which makes me hope a sequel is in the works. I would definitely like to get to know Max and Joe better.
My one nitpick is that I wish the story could have been a little bit more fleshed out. There were lots of things that were alluded to that would have benefitted from a bit more exploration, such as Joe’s bisexuality (was he really? Other than his saying so, no further mention of this was made), Max’s exploration of his own emerging sexuality, and his need to find a partner who was his intellectual equal. Maybe the author didn’t want to lose the comedy aspect of the story by getting too contemplative on issues such as this, but I think she is a good enough writer that she could have pulled it off—and I, as a reader, wanted more.
Even so, I definitely recommend this novella as a very entertaining and enjoyable read. It has all the ingredients: likeable characters, witty dialogue, a good story, and just the right amount of hot sex to keep me happy—all in all, a winning combination. Enjoy!